Remarques supplémentaires sur percepts et concepts

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L'"effet aéronef" et l'"effet d'excitation" s'appliquent au cas d'Eastern Airlines de 1948 (mieux connu comme cas de Chiles-Whitted). Cela servira d'exemple de difficultés à établir toutes preuves concrètes des "soucoupes volantes" lorsque l'on est forcé de distinguer percepts et concepts de quelques témoins dans des cas plus anciens.

En bref, le pilote Chiles et le co-pilote Whitted signalèrent flashing by them en quelques secondes un appareil sans ailes et sans ailerons ni surfaces dépassantes, [qui] était de la forme d'un cigare, d'environ 100 pieds de long, et environ du double du diamètre d'une superforteresse B-29. Il sembla avoir 2 rangées de fenêtres à travers lesquelles luisait une lumière très brillante, brilliante comme du magnesium incandescent. Un intense lueur bleu sombre like a blue fluorescent factory light shown at the bottom along the entire length, and red-orange flames shot out from the rear to a distance of some fifty feet s1[Menzel, 1963].

This case has been one of the mainstays in the arguments for "flying saucers" and NICAP has described it as the "classic" cigar-shaped object s2[Hall, 1964]. Hynek, as consultant to the Air Force, and Menzel and Boyd account for it as a fireball s3[Menzel, 1963].

The present discussion provides definitive evidence that fireballs can be described in just the way reported by Chiles and Whitted. The investigator is faced with the perfectly conceivable possibility that Chiles and Whitted, suffering from the "airship effect," became excited and reported a misconception - a cigar-shaped object with windows and flames - just as a fraction of witnesses to spectacular fireballs are now known to do.

A 2nd example from my own experience illustrates the difficulties of transforming perceptions into conceptions (and explanations). During the course of the Colorado project investigation, I was sitting in the left side of an airliner, just behind the wing. As I looked out over patchy clouds, I saw an object apparently passing us in the distance, flying the other way. It came out from under our wing, not far below the horizon, and drifted slowly behind us until, because of the window geometry, I could no longer see far enough behind to observe it. It moved like a distant airliner, but was a grey, ill-defined disk, with major axis about a third of the apparent size of the moon. It was darker than the clouds, but lighter than the ground. It appeared to be a disk-shaped, nebulous "aircraft," flying smoothly in an orientation parallel to the ground.

I was sufficiently shaken by this to pull out some paper and begin making copious notes. During this operation I glanced out again and this time saw clearly a distant airliner, slightly above the horizon this time, but moving in the same way. There was no question that this was an airliner, for in spite of its having the same angular size as the disk, I could clearly see its wings and tail. Just then, the pilot banked to the right, raising the left wing, and suddenly the distant plane became a grey, nebulous disk. It had passed behind the distorting exhaust stream of the jet engine, which was suspended and obscured under the wing. The first disk, or plane, had flown directly behind this stream, whose presence had slipped my mind.

In summary, an investigator of UFOs is in effect asking for all the records of strange things seen, and he must be sober in recognizing the tremendous variety of sources of distortion and misconception. Each case of misconception may involve its own processes of error, but perhaps common to all such cases is an easy tendency to "fix" on an early conception of a percept, by a process that is analogous to that of the "staircase" optical illusion in which one conceives of the staircase as being seen either from "above" or "below". Another example is the common difficulty in looking at aerial photographs. One may conceive of the relief as being seen either "positive" or "negative." Once the conception occurs it is difficult to dispel it. If you see a star at night from an airplane but conceive of it as an object pacing the aircraft at only 300 yd. distance, it is easy to retain this conception. As R. V. Jones (1968) has pointed out (reviewing his wartime intelligence investigative experience in the context of the UFO problem), "witnesses were generally right when they said that something had happened at a particular place, although they could be wildly wrong about what had happened." (WKH emphasis).

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